October Garden Almanac
October is one of the most pleasant months of the year; it can start warm, then suddenly it's autumn. Temperatures will moderate this month - and hopefully we will get our first rains of the season.
October is the month to finish your summer harvest. You should have floating row covers on hand if our first fall frost hits this month (that hasn't happened in the past five years, but it could).
Look for Native Plant Society sales this month - this is a great time to plant natives. California natives do a great job of living the whole year on the rain that comes between October and March - nature's very own solution to busting the drought.
Here is a garden and nature roundup for October:
Annuals: Fall annuals can go in the garden now: alyssum, dianthus, Dusty Miller, Iceland poppies, lobelia, nemesia, ornamental kale, candytuft, pansy, primrose, and snapdragons. Scatter wildflower seeds in autumn for spring blooms. Have light poly plant blankets on hand for early frost.
Perennials: Spread a two-inch layer of aged compost mulch around perennials to protect them from winter cold and heavy rains. Withhold water from perennials that go dormant. This is the best month to choose new chrysanthemums for the garden and for containers; all the garden centers have chrysanthemums this month. Chrysanthemums are perennials even though they disappear for a good part of the year.
Bulbs: Lift cold-sensitive bulbs such as watsonia and dahlias this month and store them in a cool, dry place for the winter. Put bulbs that require a cold snap such as hyacinths and Dutch tulips into the refrigerator in paper bags now for planting in eight weeks.
Vines: Once wisteria is dormant, prune back the new growth, but leave two to four buds in place for next spring's blooms. Prune wisterias each autumn for profuse blooms in spring.
Roses: Stop dead-heading roses this month; dead-heading encourage new rose blooms to continue to grow. Let your plants go dormant and rest for two or three months.
Shrubs: Now is the time to add autumn-colored shrubs to the garden: contoneaster, nandina, pyracantha, and viburnum. Integrate autumn-colored shrubs and bloomers into the overall garden design. Plant native shrubs this month as well.
Trees: Plant trees now; you won't see much growth during the winter, but what you plant now will be ready to grow when the soil and weather warms next spring. Deciduous trees - ornamental and fruit trees - should not be fed this time of year. Feeding now will force growth just as the weather turns chilly.
Vegetables and Herbs: Harvest winter squash and pumpkins when their stems turn brown - that is when they are ripe. Clean the garden of spent summer crops and debris so that insect pests and disease do not overwinter. Add aged compost to planting beds once they have been cleaned.
Fruits and Berries: Pick persimmons when they are green to orange but still firm. Ripen them indoors stem side down. Apples picked with the stem attached to the fruit keep longer.
Garden maintenance: Check plants often for aphids and scale. These pests can do damage this time of year before the weather turns chilly. Clear the garden of spent plants, garden debris, and weeds; pest insects will be looking to harbor for the winter in weeds and debris.
Native plants: Blooming this month are wild California fuchsias, sunflowers, and California goldenrods. Look for the fall colors of quaking aspens, vine maples, and western redbuds. October is an ideal month to plant natives in your garden.
Nature alerts: Maples, deciduous oaks, redbuds, and flowering dogwoods will produce various hues of red and yellow later this month. Raptors will be migrating south along the coast this month: bald eagles, ospreys, and peregrine falcons along with red-tailed, red-shouldered, rough-legged, and marsh hawks.
Kenwood weather averages: Temperature: Average high 78°F, Average low 48°F, mean 63°F; Average precipitation 1.73 inches; Record high 105°F (1980), Record low 25°F (1946).
Sunrise and Sunset: Sunrise on the 1st 7:06 a.m., Sunset on the 1st 6:54 p.m.; Sunrise on the 31st 7:36 a.m., Sunset on the 31st 6:12 p.m.
Moon: Last quarter/waning on Oct. 4; New on Oct. 13; First quarter/waxing on Oct. 20; Full on Oct. 27.
- Compiled by Steve Albert
Steve Albert is the author of The Kitchen Garden Grower’s Guide available at Amazon.com. He teaches in the landscape design program at the U.C. Berkeley Extension. He lives in Oakmont.